New neurons for better brain health: neurogenesis


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Now you might ask what good does all this exercise and enriched environment (novelty) really do for my brain health and fitness? One thing that these two brain hacks increases is the birth of new neurons. Yes, new neurons.

The old dogma back when I started my undergraduate degree was that in adult mammals no new neurons were born. And all you had to look forward to was a constant death of neurons – and hence ‘depreciation’ of your brain. Fortunately scientific research is constantly finding new results that can shake up dogma (Elizabeth Gould is largely responsible for challenging this dogma, covered here).

Both enriched environment and exercise (running being the most widely studied) increases the number of new neurons born in adult mammals. Now, it still appears with age we might have a decrease of total number of neurons as death of neurons is still at a higher rate than the birth of new ones (though this is still an open argument). However, you might as well do your best to keep your neuron count as high as possible by exercise and exposing yourself to an enriched environment (I will talk about the importance of cognitive reserve another time)

And what are the benefits of keeping more neurons – besides keeping you sharp and wise – well one is it appears that antidepressant treatments increase neurogenesis – and if your block the birth of new neurons you also block the effect of antidepressant treatment. Therefore, it appears that the birth of new neurons is essential to reducing depression. And we can all live with being happier.

And guess what exercise, which I have pointed out increases neurogenesis, is also an effective treatment for depression.

So what are you going to do today to increase your E and E. (exercise and enriched environment)?

Here are some other blogs that cover similar info